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House, with some GOP support, impeaches Donald Trump for ‘Incitement of Insurrection’

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The House on Wednesday impeached President Donald Trump for inciting a violent insurrection against the United States government, as 10 members of the president’s party joined Democrats to charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors for an unprecedented second time.
Reconvening under the threat of continued violence and the protection of thousands of National Guard troops, the House was determined to hold Trump to account just one week before he was to leave office. At issue was his role in encouraging a mob that attacked the Capitol one week ago while Congress met to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, forcing lawmakers to flee for their lives in a deadly rampage.
The House adopted a single article of impeachment, voting 232-197 to charge Trump with “inciting violence against the government of the United States” and requesting his immediate removal from office and disqualification from ever holding one again.
Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach: Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the party’s No. 3 leader in the House; Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington; John Katko of New York; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Fred Upton and Peter Meijer of Michigan; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; David Valadao of California and Tom Rice of South Carolina.
The defections were a remarkable break from the head of the party by Republicans, who voted unanimously against impeaching Trump just over a year ago.
The vote set the stage for the second Senate trial of Trump in a year, though senators appeared unlikely to convene to sit in judgment before Jan. 20, when Biden will take the oath of office. The last proceeding, over Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to smear Biden, was a partisan affair.
This time, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, was said to support the effort as a means of purging his party of Trump, setting up a political and constitutional showdown that could shape the course of American politics when the nation remains dangerously divided.
In a note to Republican colleagues on Wednesday, McConnell did not deny that he backed the impeachment push, but he said that he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote, and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”
Trump showed no contrition for his actions. But in the run-up to the vote Wednesday, he issued a statement urging his supporters to remain peaceful as federal authorities warned of a nationwide wave of violence surrounding Biden’s inauguration.
“There must be no violence, no lawbreaking and no vandalism of any kind,” the president said in a statement that was read by Republicans from the House floor. “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on all Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”
The House’s vote was historic. Only two other presidents have been impeached; none has been impeached twice, by such a large bipartisan margin, or so close to leaving office.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California implored colleagues before the vote to embrace “a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the Republic will be safe from this man who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear and that hold us together.”
“He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love,” she said, adding later, “It gives me no pleasure to say this — it breaks my heart.”
Republicans, who stood unanimously behind Trump in 2019 during his first impeachment, were split over the charge this time.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, spoke out against impeachment, warning that it would “further fan the flames of partisan division.” But he also pinned blame on Trump for the attack and batted down false suggestions from some of his colleagues that antifa had actually been responsible for the siege, not loyalists to Trump. He proposed censuring the president instead of impeaching him.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
Democrats and some Republicans had tried — briefly — to take another course. They urged Trump to resign voluntarily and voted late Tuesday to call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to wrest the powers of the presidency from Trump for the remainder of his term. Trump refused, and so did Pence.
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After Trump setbacks, Kim Jong Un starts over with Biden

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SEOUL: Last year was a disaster for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
He helplessly watched his country’s already battered economy decay further amid pandemic border closures while brooding over the collapse of made-for-TV summits with former President Donald Trump that failed to lift crippling sanctions from his country.
Now he must start all over again with President Joe Biden, who has previously called Kim a “thug” and accused Trump of chasing spectacles instead of meaningful reductions of Kim’s nuclear arsenal.
While Kim has vowed to strengthen his nuclear weapons program in recent political speeches, he also tried to give Biden an opening by saying that the fate of their relations depends on whether Washington discards what he calls hostile US policies.
It’s unclear how patient Kim will be. North Korea has a history of testing new USadministrations with missile launches and other provocations aimed at forcing the Americans back to the negotiating table.
In recent military parades in Pyongyang, Kim showcased new weapons he may test, including solid-fuel ballistic systems designed to be fired from vehicles and submarines, and the North’s biggest intercontinental ballistic missile.
A revival of tensions would force the USand South Korea to reckon more deeply with the possibility that Kim may never voluntarily deal away the weapons he sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.
Kim’s arsenal emerged as a major threat to the United States and its Asian allies following tests in 2017 that included a detonation of a purported thermonuclear warhead and flight tests of ICBMs that demonstrated the potential to reach deep into the American homeland.
A year later, Kim initiated diplomacy with South Korea and the U.S., but it derailed in 2019 when the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a piecemeal deal partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities.
North Korea won’t likely be the top priority for Biden, who while facing mounting domestic issues is also gearing up for a push to get back into a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that Trump blew up in favour of what he called maximum pressure against Iran.
The Biden administration’s “sequence of policy attention will likely be: Get America’s own house in order, strengthen USalliances and align strategies toward China and Russia, and then address Iran and North Korea,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
But North Korea never likes to be ignored.
Although Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama, whose policy was to wait out North Korea while gradually increasing sanctions, that method might not work because the North’s weapons capabilities have grown significantly in the years since.
While sanctions, border closures and crop-killing natural disasters have created the toughest challenges of Kim’s nine-year rule, he won’t be in a hurry to offer concessions, Easley said. Kim’s government has a high tolerance for domestic suffering and could expect extensive help from China, its only major ally.
North Korea’s first provocation under the Biden administration could possibly be related to submarine-launched ballistic systems, which Kim showcased in recent parades.
Kim’s ambitions for longer-range ICBMs and reconnaissance satellites that he expressed during the ruling party congress this month could lead to a space launch that would double as a test of long-range missile technology. That would be reminiscent of a 2009 launch that took place weeks into Obama’s first term.
(The North) is capable of conducting tests that the USand its allies cannot ignore,” Easley said. “Kim is likely to exploit this.”
The North Korean leader is trying to move the diplomacy toward an arms reduction negotiation between nuclear states, rather than talks that would culminate in a full surrender of his weapons, according to Shin Beomchul, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.
But North Korea probably won’t test weapons until after Biden’s State of the Union address in February, where he could set the tone of his policy toward the North, Shin said. Kim may also want to see whether the United States and South Korea proceed with a major joint military exercise expected in March.
Although the allies have described their annual exercises as defensive in nature and downsized much of their combined training activity under Trump to make space for diplomacy, North Korea has called for a full stoppage of the drills, describing them as invasion rehearsals and proof of US hostility.
“The North during the party congress has made clear it has no intentions of budging first, but it is also interested in hearing what the United States has to say,” said Shin, who served as a South Korean diplomat during the Obama years.
“Biden will not inherit Trump’s top-down diplomacy, but you could expect him to be more flexible about working-level negotiations, offering to talk with the North Koreans at any time and place and about anything,” he said.
Shin expects Biden to eventually pursue a deal with North Korea that resembles the agreement with Iran that Trump pulled out of in 2018. It could provide North Korea some level of compensation for freezing its nuclear and missile capabilities at their current level.
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Facebook's oversight board to decide on Trump's ban

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WASHINGTON: Facebook has asked its independent experts to take a decision on continuation of its ban on former US President Donald Trump.
Facebook and its photo and video sharing social networking service, Instagram, suspended Trump after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 that left five people dead and led to his second impeachment.
The Oversight Board, an independent body created by Facebook three years ago, on Thursday said it has accepted a case referral from the social media giant to examine its decision to indefinitely suspend Trump’s access to post content on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook has also requested policy recommendations from the board on suspensions when the user is a political leader.
Facebook’s decision to suspend Trump’s access to post on Facebook and Instagram has driven intense global interest. The Oversight Board has been closely following events in the US and Facebook’s response to them, and the board is ready to provide a thorough and independent assessment of the company’s decision, it said.
“A decision by the Board on this case will be binding on Facebook, and determine whether Mr Trump’s suspension from access to Facebook and Instagram for an indefinite amount of time is overturned,” the board said in a press release.
Facebook has committed not to restore access to its platforms unless directed by a decision of the Oversight Board. Facebook must consider any accompanying policy recommendations from the board and publicly respond to them, it said.
According to the Oversight Board, in the coming days, the case will be assigned to a five-member case review panel. After the panel reaches a decision, its findings are shared with the entire board. Sign-off by a majority of the board is required for a case decision to be issued.
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Biden has no plans to call Trump: White House

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WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden has no plans to call his predecessor Donald Trump, the White House has said.
“There’s no call planned,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
She was responding to questions on the remarks made by Biden a day earlier when he said that Trump has left him a “very generous” letter in the Oval Office, and he plans to talk to him.
Trump did not attend his inauguration, a rare for an outgoing president.
“What he was conveying is that he didn’t want to release a private note without having agreement from the former president. But I wouldn’t say he’s seeking it through a phone call, he was just trying to be respectful in that moment of a private letter that was sent,” Psaki said.
It is customary for outgoing presidents to write their successors a letter and leave it for them on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
However, given that the former president broke several of the past traditions, including skipping Biden’s inauguration ceremony and never formally congratulated him on his election win, it was unclear until Wednesday whether Trump would maintain the tradition of outgoing presidents leaving notes for their successors.
“The president wrote a very generous letter. Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous,” Biden had told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday.
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